Freshwater and seawater isoforms of the alpha subunit of Na+/K+-ATPase (NKA) have previously been identified in gill ionocytes of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). In the present study we examine the abundance and cellular localization of these isoforms during the parr–smolt transformation, a developmental process that is preparatory for seawater entry. The abundance of NKAα1a was lower in smolts than in parr, remained relatively constant during spring and decreased in summer. NKAα1b increased tenfold in smolts during spring, peaking in late April, coincident with downstream migration and increased salinity tolerance. NKAα1b increased a further twofold after seawater exposure of smolts, whereas NKAα1a decreased by 98%. The abundance of NKAα1b-positive, and NKAα1b and NKAα1a co-labeled ionocytes increased during smolt development, whereas the number of NKAα1a cells decreased. After seawater exposure of smolts, NKAα1b-positive ionocytes increased, NKAα1a-positive cells decreased, and co-labeled cells disappeared. Plasma growth hormone and cortisol increased during spring in smolts, but not in parr, peaking just prior to the highest levels of NKAα1b. The results indicate that the increase in the abundance of NKAα1b during smolt development is directly linked to the increase in salinity tolerance that occurs at this stage, but that significant changes also occur after seawater exposure. Spring increases in circulating levels of growth hormone and cortisol indicate that these hormones may be instrumental in upregulating NKAα1b during smolt development.
Additional publication details
Differential regulation of sodium-potassium pump isoforms during smolt development and seawater exposure of Atlantic salmon